SNAICC has released a final report on the Western Australian consultations under its national initiative to reduce the alarming and soaring number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.
SNAICC’s Family Matters, Kids safe in culture, not in care hosted a public forum on the over-representation issue in Perth on Friday, 13 June and a community meeting in Fitzroy Crossing on Tuesday 17 June 2014.
The Perth Forum was organised in partnership with Yorganop and the Western Australian Council of Social Service (WACOSS) and the community meeting in partnership with the Baya Gawiy Buga yani Jandu yani u Centre, the Children and Family Centre in Fitzroy Crossing.
Two hundred and eleven early childhood and child protection workers, representatives from Aboriginal controlled organisations and members of the community people were involved in discussions. They identified local issues in relation to child removal and made 56 recommendations, 28 for government, 21 for the non-government sector and 7 for the community.
Western Australia has the highest rate ratio of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care in Australia. Aboriginal children are 16 times more likely than non-Aboriginal children to be in out-of-home care in Western Australia. While they comprise just 5 per cent of the child population (aged 0-17 years), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up 49.5 per cent of all children in out-of-home care. This is the second highest proportional rate in Australia after the Northern Territory and higher than the national average. In Western Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child removal has more than tripled in the past 10 years from 587 children in 2003 to 1,800 in 2013.
There was considerable discussion on the:
- lack of cultural competency and awareness of Aboriginal child rearing practices among child protection workers.
- disparity with Department of Child Protection and Family Support policy and actual practice on the ground.
- need to transfer responsibility for case management and out-of-home placement to Aboriginal controlled community organisations and the
- benefits of increased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in all aspects of child protection decision-making.
SNAICC CEO, Frank Hytten has written to the Minister for Child Protection Hon Helen Morton and called on the Western Australian government to reduce the amount of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care by one quarter, from 1 in 678 to 1 in 259 in 2015 through:
- increasing prevention and early intervention for families at risk by redistributing resources from child protection to intensive family support
- reducing the number of substantiated notifications through increased understanding among child protection workers of Aboriginal culture and child rearing practices and
- improving the rate of family reunification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with their birth or extended families.